The White Rose at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Famed for their productions of Shakespeare’s works, Arrows & Traps Theatre tackle an original for the first time, written and directed by their founder, Ross McGregor. The company specialises in making the past feel modern, and as young people everywhere protest Donald Trump’s UK visit, this play could not feel more relevant. Sophie Scholl’s story is one that most British audiences in the room will not have heard before, and with The White Rose McGregor aims to rectify this on the 75th anniversary of her execution.
The show opens with visuals that introduce viewers to the harsh setting: it is Munich, 1943, the world is at war. Leaflets have appeared calling for Hitler to be overthrown. These leaflets are written by an anonymous organisation, The White Rose. Now, Sophie Scholl (Lucy Ioannou) is being interrogated by Robert Mohr (Christopher Tester) on her involvement in their creation.
The scene changes from the blinding white lights of the interrogation room to cosy orange lights of a home. Here, we are introduced to Sophie’s brother, Hans Scholl (Will Pinchin), who says that speaking his mind in one room is not enough. Answering him, Alexander Schmorell (Conor Moss) arrives with a typewriter, and The White Rose blossoms. The group consists also of Hans’s girlfriend Traute Lafrenz (Beatrice Vincent), the brave Willi Graf (Alex Stevens) and kind-hearted Christoph Probst (Pearce Sampson). The piece alternates between scenes in the prison and flashbacks, showing just how Sophie and her friends lead the only major act of civil disobedience to the Third Reich by making and distributing leaflets across Germany.
This play is quotable, with a perfect balance of comedic one-liners and philosophical monologues. McGregor actually uses real pieces of text from the time. It is clear the work is based on a true story, since all characters are three dimensional. Moss perfectly captures the quick wit of Alex, Stevens expertly portrays the naivety of Willi, Sampson channels fatherly love in Christoph, while the chemistry between Ioannou and Pinchin makes for a believable sibling relationship. They are like a normal, modern friendship group, which is why spectators are all the more saddened at their leaving. Tears do not only fall down the actors’ faces when Sophie and her friends are sent to execution.
A memorial appears on a screen, reminding us that these are real people. This is a depressing journey, but it is necessary as, afterwards, everyone will certainly know and remember the story of Sophie Scholl.
Photo: Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative
The White Rose is at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 17th July until 4th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.